2000 artists from 25 countries took part in 300 events on 35 stages across Glasgow – making this the most widespread Celtic Connections since the festival began in 1994.
With attendances once again of over 130,000 the festival was a huge draw for audiences from all over the world.
Celtic Connections has proven itself to be a festival which stays true to its Celtic roots, but each year seeks to explore new ideas, musical styles including folk, blues, techno, jazz and Americana.
The ‘Above the Surface’ strand, supported through the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund, presented critically acclaimed new genre-crossing work starring artists including Karine Polwart & Kris Drever, Kathleen MacInnes with Icelandic group amiina and world music star Bassekou Kouyate who performed alongside Gaelic group SIAN.
Scotland’s leading music industry event, Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections, welcomed 180 delegates from 23 countries to see performances by Scottish musicians. The concerts, along with a trade fair, provide invaluable opportunities for Scottish musicians to gain new worldwide opportunities thanks to this leading industry delegate event.
Each year, Celtic Connections partners with a country to create new international links and advance opportunities for their musicians
The Showcase Scotland international partner for Celtic Connections in 2019 was Galicia, with leading musicians taking to the stage for a series of brilliant performances.
Finland will be the international partner for 2020, when Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections returns for its 20th anniversary. The festival will present both leading and emerging Finnish artists in association with Music Finland.
11,000 school children learnt about Celtic music at five free morning concerts and workshops with the Celtic Connections award winning Education Programme.
Celtic Connections 2019 celebrated an international partnership with the Basque Region for the first time, presenting Basque artists to enthralled audiences.
Performance highlights of Celtic Connections 2019 included the Opening Concert on Thursday 17 January, when 100 young musicians from Scotland and Galicia took to the stage on the Main Auditorium of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to perform alongside leading traditional Scottish artists.
Real life mother and daughter Eilidh Mackenzie and Peigi Barker sang as Merida and the Queen in the world premiere screening of Brave, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing the score live alongside Celtic musicians who also performed on the original soundtrack.
Skye based trad and electronic music pioneers Niteworks’ pulsing set at Barrowland Ballroom sent a packed audience into raptures.
Two of Scotland’s most distinctive contemporary artists Rachel Sermanni and Jarlath Henderson took to the stage of the City Halls to perform specially created arrangements of their acclaimed repertoires, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s accompaniment enriching the beauty and power of the songs.
The power of nature that is Rhiannon Giddens returned to Celtic Connections, joined in 2019 by the Celtic Blues Orchestra whose sumptuous playing provided the perfect frame for Giddens expressive, elegant voice.
The celebration of legendary musician John Martyn led by his long-time friend Danny Thompson featuring artists including Paul Weller, Lucy Rose and Eddi Reader came to an emotional conclusion as the musicians on stage and audience watched a film of Martyn singing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’.
The superlative festival line up for Celtic Connections 2019 also included Cherish the Ladies, Graham Nash, Elephant Sessions, Bokanté, Loudon Wainwright III, Judy Collins, Ronnie Spector & the Ronettes, Kathy Mattea, Shooglenifty, Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, Susheela Raman, Songhoy Blues, Mariza and a special performance of ‘An Treas Suaile’ (The Third Wave) with Julie Fowlis and Duncan Chisholm.
Celtic Connections 2019 ends with a final day brimming with unmissable entertainment, including the hugely popular Transatlantic Sessions, which brings together a wealth of talent on the stage of the Main Auditorium of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, before touring England and Ireland throughout the coming week.
Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “As eighteen days of sharing brilliant performances with our fantastic festival audiences draws to a close, the sense I have is of just how special Celtic Connections 2019 has been with a host of inspiring performances across our stages. The commissions and special collaborations which are one of our hallmarks, have travelled in musical directions which have amazed us all.
“We sought to make this year’s festival our most innovative yet and thanks to the musicians who joined us we achieved this. It’s hard to believe it is almost over, and time now to start thinking of how we can better this next year when our incredible festival will return.”
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Celtic Connections 2019 has been a triumph. Glasgow has welcomed audiences from across the world to celebrate music and the bonds between us. Celtic Connections has also created new links with international communities that will continue to grow after the closing notes of the festival have sounded.
"As. a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow is the place to be for live music. Each January we start the year as we mean to go on, by presenting one of the best music festivals in the world. In 2019 Celtic Connections has once again shone brilliantly across the winter days and nights.”
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This year's Celtic Connections has been one of the best - and I am already looking forward to seeing how it develops next year.
“I thoroughly enjoyed attending some of the 'Above the Surface' concerts at this year's festival. The calibre of musical talent on show was of a world-leading standard and I am pleased this strand of the festival was supported by Scottish Government Expo funding for the first time.”
For more information about Celtic Connections visit: www.celticconnections.com
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